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The polling day for the next general election should be declared a national holiday, it has been claimed.

A day before voters go to the polls in local elections in England, Wales and Scotland, the declaration is made in a series of political essays to be published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) thinktank later this month.

Citing faltering turnout in general and local elections over the last two decades, Labour MP Emily Thornberry says that bank holiday or French-style weekend polling could help politics adapt to new generations of voters.

In last year's local elections turnout fell four percentage points to 36 per cent, despite extended voting hours, postal voting and warm weather.

Ms Thornberry writes that turnout in British elections is in "long-term decline", with poor and younger voters increasingly less likely to vote.

Also highlighted in the essay is the growing gap between manual and non-manual workers' participation in general elections.

Other statistics show that people aged over 65 were twice as likely to vote in 2005's general election as those aged 18 to 25, while whereas in 1992 70 per cent of 20-year-olds voted, by 2001 turnout among the same generation – now in their 30s – had fallen to 40 per cent.

"Being serious about reducing inequalities in election turnout also means making it easier for everyone to vote. A straightforward way to achieve this would be to move elections away from a regular workday," Ms Thornberry claims.

"The most obvious option is to have elections on Saturdays - but we could also consider holding them on Wednesdays, and making election day a bank holiday. An unusual day off in the middle of the week would draw attention to the election, and it would give more people the time to vote, yet without encouraging them to take the day as part of a long weekend."

Yesterday Tony Blair revealed an announcement over the timetable for his resignation will be made next week, with Gordon Brown set to win the race to succeed him as prime minister.

Conservative party leader David Cameron has previously called on the chancellor to announce a snap poll after getting the keys to No 10.

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